The Toronto Maple Leafs need David Clarkson to start producing after they signed him to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract this past summer.
To say Clarkson has been disappointing after the first two months of the season is an understatement. The top free-agent available last summer has struggled to find his game in Toronto, only managing to produce two goals and three assists along with a minus-three rating in 19 games this season.
Toronto committed to giving Clarkson $5.25 million per season for the next seven years because they believed they were getting the type of power forward necessary to put them over the top. The Maple Leafs believed Clarkson was going to provide secondary scoring for the line-up behind Phil Kessel’s line, along with the type of intimidation, physicality and sandpaper needed to win in the playoffs. So far, Toronto has learned Clarkson can be aggressive and physical. Now they are waiting to see if he can consistently find the back of the net considering it took him 11 games to score his first goal of the season and he hasn’t scored in the past six games.
A cap-hit of over $5 million a season should buy a team more than just physical play, however, there’s no denying Clarkson’s work ethic. The guy never takes a shift off and is always crashing along the boards or trying to dig pucks out of the corners. Unfortunately, Clarkson just can’t seem to buy a break and it became obvious after he shot the puck off the crossbar when the Maple Leafs were a down a goal in their 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Clarkson was wide open in front of an even wider open net but he fired the puck too high in what would have been the game-tying goal.
Clarkson couldn’t have started-off his Maple Leaf career on a worse note after he was suspended for 10 games for jumping off the bench in the preseason. When he returned from the suspension and made his debut, it was obvious Clarkson needed time to adjust to the game speed of regular season action. After finally getting his legs under him, Clarkson was then left struggling to find a consistent center to play with. Due to all the injuries Toronto has been forced to endure, Clarkson hasn’t had consistent line-mates. In 19 games the winger has already played with at least five different centers if not more, making it extremely difficult for the struggling player to form chemistry with teammates.
Unfortunately, due to all the injuries, the Maple Leafs don’t have time for Clarkson to find the perfect teammate as they need him to start producing now. Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland are significant losses to the power-play unit, penalty-kill unit and even-strength play. It doesn’t look like any of the three top-six forwards will be lacing up their skates soon, which means it’s time for the $5 million man to start earning his contract.